Marine veterans Scott Brady and Anthony Mathis are on a mission to restore the building and the community at American Legion Post 207 in Tucker after a devastating fire in March 2019.
The fire ravaged Post 207, an active community serving about 80 veterans from Tucker, Lilburn and Stone Mountain. It was a place for Scout meetings, ceremonies and parties.
As Post Commander, Mathis took ownership of the process to rebuild but he was on the verge of selling when he met Brady.
Mathis has been through the ringer. The Post’s insurance company refused to pay, claiming the construction was taking too long. Covid struck, and permitting came to a halt in DeKalb County. Supply chain issues and labor shortages followed.
“Anthony was in a foxhole by himself and desperately needed some reinforcements,” said Brady, who discovered Post 207 after moving to Tucker two years ago. “I wanted to put down roots, and when I finally connected with Anthony I felt compelled to help.”
Now the two Marines are working to raise $750,000 to “Save the Seven,” as they say.
The fire destroyed the 70-year-old building after a wedding was held there. Set on seven acres of woods on Pine Valley Road, it took hours for neighbors to notice the blaze.
Once firefighters arrived, they were hindered from accessing the building due to a tongue and groove metal roof and burglar bars. The fire chief determined the fire sparked from a faulty wire, destroying Post 207’s flags, awards, mementos and photographs.
Setting his sights high, Brady is chairing the campaign to raise the money by January to complete the building construction. Post 207 is approximately $230,000 in arrears with a builder, and it will cost an estimated $270,000 to finish the building. Putting the finishing touches on the lounge, kitchen, and banquet room will cost about $125,000, Brady said.
Post 207 is hoping to add a deck, a barbecue pit, and a community garden.
“We’ll take donations in cash or in-kind,” said Brady. “If we can turn the lights on with running water and bathrooms and a place to sit, we have something to work with.”
Post 207 is a registered non-profit and donations are tax-deductible. A fundraising site is being established, but in the meantime, donations can be made to SaveLegion207@gmail.com via PayPal.
Brady said American Legion Posts are often known as a place for veterans to smoke, drink and blow off steam. Brady and Mathis are reimagining Post 207 as a resource for restoring the mind, body, and spirit.
“I think membership is dwindling because there’s not a message that appeals to veterans who are hurting now. They can go to a bar anywhere. How are we [the American Legion] helping get them back together? What kind of resources can we partner with to get vets the help they need?”
According to the 2020 U.S. Census, there are about 3,000 veterans in the area served by Post 207.
Brady wants to partner with local health and wellness experts, like Emory Healthcare Veterans Program and Wellstar. Eric’s FitLab in Tucker has offered to design an exercise course.
“Posts serve as a place for veterans to go for fellowship, healing and community,” said Brady. “I see it being a thriving center for veterans to feel welcomed. Our mission is to rescue veterans, restore them and then repay the community. It’s getting the veterans behind something, giving them their next mission.”
The American Legion was created in 1919 in the interest of advocating for soldiers returning from World War I. Its headquarters is in Indianapolis, IN. The American Legion created the U.S. Veterans Bureau, which later became the Veterans Administration, and “today the Legion continues to lobby for funding to cover medical, disability, education and other benefits for veterans.